By T'Pam

Disclaimer: Tom Paris, Captain Janeway and all the Voyager crew belong to Paramount. No profit will be made from this story as itís just for fun.

Part Five

Three weeks had gone by since Tom and BíElanna had broken up. In the end it had been quite amicable, much to everyoneís surprise, including their own. Once they had started talking - really talking, they realized that they should never have taken their relationship past the friendship stage.

They agreed that they loved each other, probably would always have special feelings for each other, but they were not in love. They did not share the deep abiding love that was needed for a fulltime commitment. It had been fun, but it was now over.

Tom seemed a little more upset than BíElanna as the days went by and he wasnít sure why. He missed her, of course, but their friendship was now better than it had been before. He didnít understand it, as he knew in his heart that theyíd done the right thing. However, his stomach would curl up in knots for no apparent reason and he still felt depressed.

He continued his way to the holodeck. A game of Talaxian Frisna was scheduled to start soon. Neelix had delighted in showing the Voyager crew the games his people played and this unusual card game had taken everyoneís fancy. There was no skill involved at all, or luck for that matter. It all depended on your outlook on life, quick thinking and your own general past.

Tom smiled slightly as he remembered the last time that he had played the game. Tuvok had been absolutely hilarious as he attempted to bring logic into a game that had none. Tom determined that if Tuvok were there, heíd definitely be in his group. He needed to laugh - badly.

As soon as he entered the holodeck, Harry waved him over. "I didnít have any trouble getting us into Tuvokís group, but I still donít understand why you would want to. Everybody said he spoilt the game last time, so nobody wants to play with him this time."

"Trust me Harry. You werenít here last time. It was a barrel of laughs. We need Neelix to make it perfect."

"That was a little harder. Everyone wants him in their group, but Iím working on it." Just then the bubbly little Talaxian scurried past them. "Neelix," Harry called out. "Have you decided whose group you want to play with?"

Neelix hurried back to them, his face beaming. "Not yet, no. Iím very flattered by all this attention, I must say. Everybody seems to want me."

"Thatís because youíre so good at it," Megan Delaney told him, as she walked up and linked her arm through his. "The game runs a lot smoother and quicker if someone knows all the rules without having to look anything up."

"You will play in our group, wonít you Neelix?" Jenny came up and linked his other arm through hers.

"Why yes, of course." Neelix looked slightly flustered. "It looks like my decision has been made," he told Tom and Harry.

Tom couldnít keep the disappointment off of his face, and Neelix - always quick to pick up on other peopleís moods - turned back to him. Tom was definitely not himself these days and heíd been trying to cheer him up for weeks. "Iím sorry ladies," the little Talaxian said. "I forgot Iíd promised to play in Tomís group this time. But next time Iíll definitely play in yours."

As the twins walked away in disappointment, Tom smiled in delight. Neelix felt that his small sacrifice had been well worth it. After all, he was supposed to be the moral officer. He beamed back at him. "Who else is in our group?" he asked.

"Joe Carey, Chakotay, Tuvok and us so far," Tom told him with a smile.

Neelix felt the smile slide off his face. "Oh dear! Commander Tuvok is playing? He was really rather annoying last time we played Tom. Donít you remember? He kept questioning everything we said and insisted that it was not logical."

Tom nodded. "I thought heíd probably be better with a bit more practice. And anyway, we have a solemn duty to see that he enjoys the game."

"Of course. Youíre right Tom. Leave it to me."

Tom nodded again and winked at Harry. "This is going to be fun."

As soon as everyone had arrived, Neelix set up the groups and it wasnít long before loud laughter and yells could be heard. Tom had been disconcerted to see the Captain accompany Chakotay into the room and then join their group. His stomach lurched awkwardly and his heart began to thud.

He soon felt better however, as Tuvok and Neelix kept them all entertained in a battle of wills. As the game progressed, he found himself watching the Captain out of the corner of his eye. He was usually pretty good at this, but every move he attempted to make, she was able to counteract. She was even second-guessing him half the time. It was like she knew exactly what he was going to do and how he would react.

When the game finished and Janeway had won easily, everybody adjourned to the mess hall for some light refreshments. Tom managed to maneuver it so that he was walking next to her along the corridor. "Howíd you do it, Captain? You knew what I was going to do, even before I did, half the time."

Janeway blushed. "I guess I just know you better than you thought."

Tom laughed. "It sure looks that way." He sobered suddenly. "But there was some stuff that I didnít think anyone knew - not even Harry. Like the time when I was five and I got my hand stuck in that favorite vase of my auntís. How did you know about that?"

"Believe it or not, you told me. In my memories."

"Well Captain, I hate to say this - but you cheated. In future, when we play Talaxian Frisna, we have to partner each other - just like the Delaney twins have to. Itís the only fair way."

"Youíve got yourself a deal," the Captain laughed.

Tom smiled down at her, relieved beyond measure that they could relax with one another once again. "Hey, I hope I didnít tell you about everything I did as a child. This could be embarrassing."

"Prepare to be embarrassed, Ensign."

"Damn it!" Tom laughed as he watched her walk ahead of him and couldnít help admiring the way she moved. She was a beautiful woman. She stopped and turned around to see why he was no longer with her and he felt himself begin to blush. His heart started thudding heavily in his chest as he gazed into her eyes.

"Tom?" she asked softly. He tried to tear his eyes away from hers, but he couldnít. Everything had now become crystal clear.

Katherine stopped outside the holodeck doors and took a deep breath. When sheíd received Tomís message that afternoon to meet him here, sheíd almost made up some excuse, but her heart wouldnít let her. Smoothing down her cream pantsuit she slowly entered the holodeck and was immediately surrounded by a beautiful sunset. She was standing at the top of a mountain and the view was breathtaking.

"Hey." Tom, who had been sitting on a seat overlooking the landscape below, came towards her. "What do you think?"

"Itís beautiful Tom."

"Youíre the real beauty around here Kath. You look absolutely stunning."

"Thank you." She felt herself flush with pleasure. Nobody had called her Kath for years. It felt wonderful and sounded so natural on his lips.

"I wasnít sure whether youíd come. I know you still feel uncomfortable around me." As she was about to deny this, he held up his hand. "Itís all right. I understand. I truly do."

"Why did you ask me here, Tom?" she asked softly.

"Please donít get upset. I spoke to the Doctor today. There were still some things I didnít understand about your mind implant. I put two and two together and I hope I didnít come up with five."

"I see. Just what do you think you came up with?"

"The memories that you have of me are so real because the Mostreterians took everything they needed from both our minds and turned it into a love story. Iíve finally woken up to the fact that I had feelings for you that they accessed and thatís why it seemed so believable to you. And you must have had feelings for me too. Itís the only way it could have worked." He pulled her towards him gently. "Am I right, Kath?"

Katherine sighed deeply and nodded. "My implanted memories were what I was subconsciously wishing would happen in real life. What I was hoping would happen one day. Iím so sorry." She looked down at the ground embarrassed.

Tom pulled her chin up so that their eyes would meet. "Donít be sorry. Iím the one who should be apologizing. Iíve been so dense. It took me so long to work out what I was truly feeling for you, I was so confused. My stomach was in knots every time I thought of you and I didnít know why. I guess falling for my Captain wasnít anything I ever envisioned doing." He smiled self-consciously.

"I love you Tom. I have for a long time. Maybe from the very first time I saw that picture of you on your fatherís desk. Those bright blue mischievous eyes just twinkled out at me. You were so adorable. I just wanted to hold you to me." Katherine hugged him fiercely, to prove her point.

Tom pulled away from her frowning slightly. "You donít have some sort of maternal love for me do you Kath? Because youíre not old enough to be my mother. Youíre only ten years older than me and thatís nowhere near old enough."

"Thank you for the Ďonlyí Tom. But, ten years is quite a bit of a difference."

"Only when I was ten and you were twenty. Ten years is nothing."

"Itís not nothing Tom. I canít help feeling a little uncomfortable about the whole thing."

"Well you shouldnít. If it was the other way around, it wouldnít have even come up in the conversation."

"Youíre right. And my love for you is definitely not maternal. Oh, I tried to tell myself it was at first. Maybe it was a little back then, but Iíve fallen completely and utterly in love with you over the last two years and Iíve spent the whole of that time denying it to myself. I canít do it any longer."

"I donít want you to," Tom said softly.

She gazed up into his mesmerizing eyes. "I told myself that it wasnít right to feel this way about you. That I was the Captain and couldnít have a relationship with anyone, especially someone on the bridge with me."

Tom sighed. "Youíre a person too Kath. If we were back in the alpha quadrant I could be assigned somewhere else. But weíre in the delta quadrant, and everythingís different. Surely you should be allowed some sort of personal life too."

"Youíre right of course. I just wouldnít want it to affect our working relationship."

Tom looked thoughtful. "I donít believe it would. Weíve both been brought up living and breathing Starfleet, Kath. I think we can distinguish between work and off duty."

She smiled up at him. "Howíd you get to be so clever?"

"I was born that way," he answered and her smile widened, only to become serious again. "Some people on board this ship are going to have a lot to say about us. BíElanna could be a problem."

"BíElanna and I are over. Weíre slowly becoming friends again, and thatís the way we should be."

"I know that Tom, but some people will think I pinched you off of her. And in a way theyíre right."

"BíElanna and I would never have made it in the end. We werenít meant for each other, Kath. Donít get me wrong. It was fun and exciting with her, but it always felt like we were playing. When things got serious, we werenít there for each other. She never wanted me to be."

She nodded as she looked up at him. "You know how I feel. I need to know how important this relationship is to you. Is it worth all the problems that we could face? It is to me, but it could be a lot worse for you."

Tom looked at her seriously. "Sometimes I find it hard to say what I really feel, so I hope you understand me. You are more important to me than anything. Whatever anybody else says or does or thinks, means nothing to me as long as I have you. I love you more than I ever thought I was capable of loving anybody. And every day, that love grows. I just canít believe that it took me so long to realize it."

"I donít think you were ready for a proper relationship with me before now. You had a lot of issues to deal with. A lot of growing to do."

"A lot of growing up, you mean."

She laughed softly. "If we had gotten together before now, it wouldnít have lasted. We both had a lot of growing to do. Neither one of us was ready for a serious commitment until now."

"And are you ready now? To commit to a relationship with me?"

"Oh yes," she answered breathlessly.

Tom pulled her to him. "Me to," he said, his voice cracking a little. They kissed passionately for a few minutes, before pulling apart. Tom grinned down at her mischievously. "Well, now that I have some pull with the Captain, does this mean I get to sleep in?" He batted his eyelashes at her.

"Just because we were once married in my mind, donít think you can take liberties Mister," she growled at him playfully.

"Me?" Tom tried to look as innocent as he could.

"Yes you. You will report for duty at eight hundred hours the same as usual."

"Damn! Youíre no fun." He pouted, but couldnít keep the smile from his eyes.

"Oh, I can be fun Tom. Lots and lots of fun," she purred invitingly.

Tom laughed loudly. "Is that a promise?"

"Definitely," she flirted outrageously.

Tom picked her up into his arms and yelled, "Kiss me Kate!"

"What?" she laughed up into his handsome face.

"Okay, thereís the sunset, but whereís the damn horse?"

"What are you talking about?"

"Weíre supposed to ride off into the sunset now." At her puzzled look, he laughed. "Actually, itís just something the Doc said, of all people."

"Well, put me down. Thatís an order."

"Yes Maíam." As he placed her gently back down on the ground, he kept his arms around her. Smiling into her eyes, he asked. "Permission to kiss the Captain, Captain?"

"Permission granted Ensign."

The End.

Thanks Kendra, for giving me the inspiration for this story.

Please let me know what you thought. This is my first attempt at J/P and I would love some feedback. t_pam@yahoo.com